Study: Nitrate-rich water good for plants

Nov. 26, 2008 at 12:52 PM

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- High nitrate levels in water from parts of the Seymour Aquifer in Texas may make it unfit for human consumption but just right for irrigation, researchers said.

The high concentration of nitrates -- as high as 40 parts per million in some areas -- exceeds federal safe drinking water standards for use as a municipal water source but the water would benefit agricultural producers, Texas A&M University researchers said in a release.

"When you get more than 10 parts per million, it exceeds the federal limit," said researcher John Sij, who along with two other Texas AgriLife Research scientists studied the nitrate levels in irrigation water from the Seymour Aquifer for the past three years.

Nitrate levels range from 3 parts per million to 40 parts per million in the aquifer, researchers said, so the situation is being addressed by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We don't know what percentage of the nitrate is geologic in nature or what percentage is due to farming operations," Sij said. "But if we take it into consideration in our fertility programs, we can mine the nitrogen and use it as a resource."

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